Archives for posts with tag: liver
Iwihinmu, 'place of mystery', from localhikes.com

Iwihinmu, ‘place of mystery’, from localhikes.com

Spring has sprung on the mountain. The buds have crept up the valleys to our high perch. The snow is melting from the bald top of Iwihinmu. In the Chumash language, the mountain’s name means place of mystery. In a normal year the snowpack might last until June or July. The days are warm. When the wind blows, snow flies upward. It is a flurry of furry seed clumps floating from their mother plants into the sky. The Steller’s Jays are building a nest with pine needles under the peak of our A-frame. They have decided that our proximity in the baby blue Adirondacks is still conducive to chickrearing. The needles are scattered everywhere; they are not tidy builders.

Spring greens, dandelion is cold, good for a frustrated liver.

Spring greens, dandelion is cold, good for a frustrated liver.

The new growth of spring reminds us of the mandate to care for the living things around us. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic says spring is the time of reward rather than punishment, building rather than tearing down. In this culture we think of spring-cleaning to provide a clean slate for the rest of the year. How else to create a space for health, wealth and prosperity in our lives? Prosperity is the luxury of a surplus we can share with others. Cleansing your body is equivalent to tidying your environment; it is called detoxification. It is how we reduce inflammation. Do not pick up the brooms and mops if you are still tired from the winter, keep resting.

Food is the best medicine.

Food is the best medicine.

Chinese medicine considers food the most sophisticated medicine. If you eat according to your biochemical individuality, your digestion is healthy. Imagine tending crops that you know flourish in the soil of your bowels. Unfortunately our minds rather than our guts dictate our diets. Bring awareness to your eating. Consume at least one meal without any distractions such as television or thinking. You will lose unwanted weight this way. Eating becomes a meditation where you focus on the texture, aroma and flavour of your food. It is an intimate experience to ingest anything into your body. Eating anything you want without distractions gives you time to consider your motives. You may not need the foods incompatible to your system anymore, once you understand your reasons for consuming them.

Drink beverages at least 30 to 60 minutes before or after eating. This prevents fluids from diluting digestive juices. Eat when you are hungry not tired. Food gives us energy but a short nap or early bedtime is the real solution to fatigue. Eat until you feel satisfied, not full. If you feel hungry after a standard meal, wait ten minutes before you decide to have more. For some of us it takes a little time to register satisfaction. Insatiable hunger indicates some discontentment with your life. Look inward at the self rather than outward at food for the solution.

The green shoots of spring remind us to eat dark leafy greens. Consume at least 2 ½ cups of vegetables daily to keep the large intestine moving smoothly. I recommend a modified Dr. Bieler’s Health Broth at one or two meals, depending on the frequency of your bowel movements: once daily or after each meal is normal. It is known colloquially as Poop Soup.

Zucchini, from wrensoft.com

Zucchini, from wrensoft.com

Green beans, from buffalo-niagaragardening.com

Green beans, from buffalo-niagaragardening.com

Italian parsley, from gpb.org

Italian parsley, from gpb.org

Bring to a boil and simmer in a small amount of water equal amounts of:

· zucchini (high in calcium, strengthens the digestion and the kidneys)
· string beans (strengthens the digestion and the kidneys, drains damp)
· Italian or regular parsley (detoxifies the blood, calms the spirit, increases satisfaction with life)

Cook until still emerald green rather than dark green. Blend twice in a mixer for a smooth broth (less water makes a delicious thick soup). Make a large amount and freeze it. If you tend to be cold add some chopped ginger. If you tend to be hot add some pre-soaked wakame seaweed. You can also add any other dark leafy greens you prefer. One of my patients hates the taste of parsley so he leaves that out, adding something else. Another patient eats nothing but Bieler’s Broth when she is sick and it shortens her recovery. Dark leafy greens relax the liver. Spring is the season of the liver. Like a healthy mother who gets everything done without stress, the liver achieves the most when it is calm. Spring teaches us maternal nurturing.

Mother and cub curled up, from bear.com

Mother and cub curled up, from bear.com

It is all well and good to recommend getting more sleep but what about those of us with insomnia? Until recently I have woken at 4 am every morning. Needless to say I ran out of steam at around 2 pm every afternoon. I credit mountain living with eventually helping me to sleep until 7 am. A major benefit of country life is the lack of light at night. This is not just a boon for stargazers but for insomniacs too.

Chinese medicine uses nature as its template for health. The twenty-four hour day has a specific circuit that begins when our eyes open in the morning. Western science has a name for the body’s twenty-four hour clock: the circadian rhythm. Similar to Eastern ideas, the eyes relay the time of day to a clock in the brain. The biological clock coordinates sleep, wakefulness, body temperature, thirst and appetite. Without artificial light, the sun leaves our eyes at nightfall and our eyelids close for sleep. On Pine Mountain I call it permanent camping, once the sun goes down I crawl into my ‘tent’ AKA my bedroom. After twelve hours of wakefulness it is time for your body to wind down and prepare for sleep. It is this dedication to rest and the natural darkness of my surroundings that restored my sleep cycle. Those of you having trouble falling asleep should keep light sources in the house down to a minimum at night. Avoid backlit technology such as computers and televisions after sunset. Save that kind of work or entertainment for the daytime. Record Jimmy Fallon! Reading a book with a single light in the ambiance of a naturally dark home is a better choice. Black-out blinds or curtains keep the light pollution out of our bedrooms. I am sensitive to the power lights on electronics and cover them too. To be perfectly honest, my husband has been having a hard time finding that darned pea under his princess’s mattress. He also has difficulty finding his way to the bathroom because it is so dark (speaking of pee).

Sleepy eyes, from bear.com

Sleepy eyes, from bear.com

Go to sleep when you feel tired. A fatigued person who forces their energy to rise for too long past a certain point cannot sleep. The energy that should be sinking into the organs loses its way in the bustle of mental activity. Do not hold your eyelids open despite their overwhelming desire to close. If this happens during the day, and you have the luxury, take a 20 to 30 minute nap. Any more and the twenty-four hour cycle gets reset and some organs lose their turn for refreshment. Have you had the experience of waking from a long nap and feeling even more tired? This is the circuit restarting itself as if it was morning again.

Fast asleep with a blanket of snow, from bear.com

Fast asleep with a blanket of snow, from bear.com

According to the sages, some bedtimes are better than others! When our eyes shut for sleep at night, energy starts to circulate into the deep parts of the body for repairs and maintenance. My martial arts teacher, Shīfù Kenny Gong, used to say, “No fix bicycle while riding it!” Each organ receives a dispensation of energy for two hours before the cycle moves on to the next one. The best time to turn in is between 9 and 10 pm. At that time the liver starts to receive its share of attention. The liver is so active that it produces most of our heat. Going to sleep between these hours is your assurance that the hardest working organ in your body gets its well-deserved rest. And I bet you thought it was your brain! Sweet dreams!

The liver in a Chinese woodcut from the Ming (1368-1644 CE), from wellcomeimages.org

The liver in a Chinese woodcut from the Ming (1368-1644 CE), from wellcomeimages.org

The next installment will have advice for those of you who wake up at night and have trouble falling asleep.